“Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”
Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are popular topics right now with many people giving it a try only to fall away quickly, claiming their minds are just too busy, they can’t sit still long enough, or they just can’t do it right. Here’s the thing, busy minds are completely normal for us human beings and mindfulness meditation takes practice.
I’ve been practicing for a while now and I’m actually enrolled in a Mindfulness Meditation Teaching Certification program and my mind still wanders! I’ve learned quite a bit during the time I’ve spent in this self-paced program and I’d like to share some of the common misconceptions about mindfulness meditation:
- We must eliminate all thoughts during mindfulness meditation. No – that is not the goal. The goal is to practice becoming aware and accepting of all parts of experience, including thinking. It’s not about suppressing thoughts or being without thoughts.
- Believing that if you’re being mindful you should feel the same way others are feeling. No – mindfulness will help you find what’s true for you and it might not necessarily be comfortable. Sitting with whatever you are truly feeling will allow you to learn how to be compassionate with yourself.
- Thinking is my only way of knowing. No – mindfulness puts us in touch with other ways of perceiving and knowing that complement our usual cognitive methods. Be open to the experience – you will probably be surprised.
- I’m distracted all the time so I can’t do this. No – being distracted is normal and you’re not doing anything wrong when thoughts creep in. The practice encourages us to non-judgmentally notice when our minds have wandered and then to intentionally bring ourselves back to the breath or whatever else you are focusing on. Eventually, the time you are able to stay completely present will lengthen – you’ll get better at this but, remember, distractions always happen even to the most experienced meditators.
- Mindfulness seems very serious so it won’t be fun. Maybe – but describe fun? I’ve discovered that by suggesting that we approach everything with a beginner’s mind and to allow yourself to be curious introduces a lightness that approaches fun. Again, the goal is to experience the experience and that might be fun or just calming.
Here’s what I’ve discovered through the practice of mindfulness meditation – I’m calmer and I’m able to pause and do short mini-meditations whenever I feel agitated – they work. I spend less time ruminating about all the would’ves, should’ves and could’ves and more time noticing and appreciating what’s going on in the moment. I don’t hang out in the future, worrying about things that probably won’t happen because I’m actively engaged in what’s going on now as I prepare for the future so I’m more productive. I’m also able to sit with difficult feelings and emotions without any need to react or make hasty decisions. More often than not these uncomfortable feelings just dissipate or are resolved through insights that reveal themselves during these quiet moments. My ability to be kinder and to feel compassion for myself and others has increased and my dips into depression are milder and short-lived. I’ve noticed a general feeling of well-being and less stress overall. I could go on, but I guess you can tell that I think mindfulness meditation is pretty cool.
In fact, since I think it’s so cool, I’ve decided to offer a workshop on mindfulness in sobriety that focuses on how mindfulness can move us toward and enhance our emotional intelligence in sobriety. I’m still imagining how this will look but I think a 5 or 6-week program that focuses on sitting in meditation and then attending to one or more topics relevant to the change process and emotional sobriety will be very useful. I hope you agree and I’d love to hear from you if you’d be interested in attending. Lots more information will follow!
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
― Mother Teresa